healthy food lifestyle :: 3 :: sugar + salt


It should be common knowledge, but unfortunately it is not: sugar is absolutely terrible for you! Why is sugar bad for you? It is bad for you because it raises the insulin level in your blood dramatically. Raised blood insulin levels depress the immune system. If your immune system is depressed then your ability to fight disease is weakened. Raised blood insulin levels can also cause weight gain. Insulin promotes the storage of fat; so, when you eat foods high in refined sugar, you increase fat storage. Furthermore, refined sugar contains no vitamins or minerals so in order for sugar to be metabolized it must draw on the body’s reserve of vitamins and minerals. When these reserves are depleted, metabolization of cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher blood serum triglycerides, cholesterol, promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid storage around organs.

Unfortunately, sugar, in one form or another, is hidden in SO many foods we eat. All of these ingredients are sugar by a different name:

  • Agave Nectar 
  • Barley Malt Syrup 
  • Beet Sugar 
  • Brown Rice Syrup 
  • Brown Sugar 
  • Cane Crystals 
  • Cane Juice
  • Cane Sugar 
  • Coconut Sugar, or Coconut Palm Sugar 
  • Corn sweetener 
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids 
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice 
  • Dextrin 
  • Dextrose 
  • Evaporated Cane Juice 
  • Fructose 
  • Fruit juice concentrate 
  • Glucose High-fructose corn syrup 
  • Honey 
  • Lactose 
  • Maltodextrin 
  • Malt syrup 
  • Maltose 
  • Maple syrup 
  • Molasses 
  • Palm Sugar 
  • Raw sugar 
  • Rice Syrup 
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup 
  • Sucrose 
  • Syrup 
  • Treacle 
  • Turbinado 
  • Sugar 
  • Xylose

Many different names, but it all has the same reaction in our bodies to one degree or another.

According to a study conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, high sugar intake can be directly linked to cancer. For people who drink sugar syrup-based drinks twice a day or more, the risk of getting pancreatic cancer is 90% higher.

There are a lot of sugar and sweeteners out there and some are better than others as an alternative to the nasty stuff - not all sugars and sweeteners are created equal. Please do not substitute sugar for an artificial sweetener like Splenda or Equal; those are even worse! Below is a table that clarifies the good, bad, and the ugly among sugar and sweeteners.

What is it?
Bottom Line
White Table Sugar
Refined and processed - no nutrition
 High Fructose Corn Syrup
No nutrition
Artificial Sweeteners

Sucralose = Chemical
Aspartame - #1 most reported ingredient to FDA as causing health problems
  - Sweet & Low
saccharine - Chemical
natural herb, very sweet, need less than you would of regular sugar, other health benefits
GREAT- works well in hot and cold beverages, can be found at natural foods stores in bulk or individual packets
Agave Nectar
natural nectar extracted from the agave plant, low on the glycemic index, tastes similar to honey, milder than honey, raw and organic is ideal
GOOD - works well in hot and cold beverages, can be substituted for sugar when cooking and baking, found at natural food stores
better than table sugar, buy raw and organic
Molasses + Maple Syrup


In regards to artificial sweeteners, let's get really technical: here is an article that explains in much more detail about the artificial options and why they are so dangerous:
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Splenda — the public health experiment 
“Low–sugar” is the successor to the “low–carb” craze, even though they are essentially the same thing. According to the New York Times, by the end of this summer 11% of the food items on supermarket shelves will be labeled “reduced sugar” — most of those targeted at kids and their health-conscious moms. Sales in granulated sugar have dropped four percent in the past six months. What’s behind this trend? Splenda.Products featuring Splenda are perceived as “natural” because even the FDA’s press release about sucralose parrots the claim that “it is made from sugar” — an assertion disputed by the Sugar Association, which is suing Splenda’s manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals.The FDA has no definition for “natural,” so please bear with us for a biochemistry moment: Splenda is the trade name for sucralose, a synthetic compound stumbled upon in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation. It is true that the Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar) — except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms. 
While some industry experts claim the molecule is similar to table salt or sugar, other independent researchers say it has more in common with pesticides. That’s because the bonds holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together are more characteristic of a chlorocarbon than a salt — and most pesticides are chlorocarbons. The premise offered next is that just because something contains chlorine doesn’t guarantee that it’s toxic. And that is also true, but you and your family may prefer not to serve as test subjects for the latest post-market artificial sweetener experiment — however “unique.” 
Once it gets to the gut, sucralose goes largely unrecognized in the body as food — that’s why it has no calories. The majority of people don’t absorb a significant amount of Splenda in their small intestine — about 15% by some accounts. The irony is that your body tries to clear unrecognizable substances by digesting them, so it’s not unlikely that the healthier your gastrointestinal system is, the more you’ll absorb the chlorinated molecules of Splenda. 
So, is Splenda safe? The truth is we just don’t know yet. There are no long-term studies of the side effects of Splenda in humans. The manufacturer’s own short-term studies showed that very high doses of sucralose (far beyond what would be expected in an ordinary diet) caused shrunken thymus glands, enlarged livers, and kidney disorders in rodents. (A more recent study also shows that Splenda significantly decreases beneficial gut flora.) But in this case, the FDA decided that because these studies weren’t based on human test animals, they were not conclusive. Of course, rats had been chosen for the testing specifically because they metabolize sucralose more like humans than any other animal used for testing. In other words, the FDA has tried to have it both ways — they accepted the manufacturer’s studies on rats because the manufacturer had shown that rats and humans metabolize the sweetener in similar ways, but shrugged off the safety concerns on the grounds that rats and humans are different. In our view, determining that something is safe (or not) in laboratory rats isn’t a definitive answer, as we’ve seen countless examples of foods and drugs that have proved dangerous to humans that were first found to be safe in laboratory rats, both in short- and long-term studies. 
Here are two other reasons for our concern: first, in the eleven years after Splenda was put on the market, no independent studies of sucralose lasting more than six months have been done in humans. Second, none of the trials that were done was very large — the largest was 128 people studied for three months, making us wonder, what happens when you’ve used sucralose for a year, or two, or ten? Then there’s the fact that Splenda, as a product, consists of more than just sucralose—it’s made with dextrose, and sometimes also with maltodextrin, neither of which were included in the original studies and trials of sucralose. So the reality is that we are the guinea pigs for Splenda. 
And now, are our children the next trial group? Thanks to an agreement between McNeil Nutritionals (makers of Splenda) and PTO Today, which provides marketing and fund-raising aid to parents’ associations, your elementary school’s next bake sale may be sponsored by Splenda — complete with baked goods made with the product.Splenda side effects 
Evidence that there are side effects of Splenda is accumulating little by little. Sucralose has been implicated as a possible migraine trigger, for example. Self-reported adverse reactions to Splenda or sucralose collected by the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center include skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, swelling, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain. These show up at one end of the spectrum — in the people who have an allergy or sensitivity to the sucralose molecule. But no one can say to what degree consuming Splenda affects the rest of us, and there are no long-term studies in humans with large numbers of subjects to say one way or the other if it’s safe for everyone. 
If this sounds familiar, it should: we went down the same path with aspartame, the main ingredient in Equal and NutraSweet. Almost all of the independent research into aspartame found dangerous side effects in rodents. The FDA chose not to take these findings into account when it approved aspartame for public use. Over the course of 15 years, those same side effects increasingly appeared in humans. Not in everyone, of course — but in those who were vulnerable to the chemical structure of aspartame.As food additives, artificial sweeteners are not subject to the same gauntlet of FDA safety trials as pharmaceuticals. Most of the testing is funded by the food industry, which has a vested interest in the outcome. This can lead to misleading claims on both sides.But one thing is certain: some of the chemicals that comprise artificial sweeteners are known hazards — the degree to which you experience side effects just depends on your individual biochemistry. Manufacturers are banking on the fact that our bodies won’t absorb very much of these compounds at any one time. And many of us don’t. But what happens when we are ingesting a combination of artificial sweeteners like Splenda dozens of times a week through many different “low–sugar” or “sugar–free” products? 
People have been using artificial sweeteners for decades. Some react poorly, some don’t — the problem is, you never know until you’re already sick. Scientists are calling Splenda a mild mutagen, based on how much is absorbed. Right now, it’s anyone’s guess what portion of the population is being exposed to the dangers of Splenda or already suffering from Splenda side effects. Until an independent, unbiased research group conducts long-term studies on humans (six months is hardly long-term!), how can we be certain? With all the new Splenda products on our shelves, it looks as if we are now in the process of another grand public experiment — without our permission. And we may not know the health implications for decades. As with all things, time will unveil truth.So I urge you to be concerned about the potential dangers of Splenda — as with any unnatural substance you put in your body. And I am especially concerned about its use for children, which I recommend you avoid. But unlike many holistic practitioners, I do think artificial sweeteners can serve a purpose for some women. And that has to do with the old question — which is better, sugar or an artificial sweetener? Let’s start with sugar, where the problems all begin. 
Aspartame and saccharin: are they safer than Splenda? 
Aside from Splenda, the most popular artificial sweeteners are aspartame (and its cousin, neotame) and saccharin. Foods with these additives are marketed to women as low-fat, low-sugar, and low-calorie.Diet programs like Weight Watchers sell low-calorie foods that trade real nutrients for artificial ingredients, including sugar substitutes. I think it’s great to try and lose unwanted weight, but I question whether these packaged items should be marketed as healthy choices. Good nutrition needs to take more into account than calories and fat content — especially when it comes to how many artificial sweeteners we’re eating and what we’re mixing them with.
Dangers in aspartame
Aspartame, the main ingredient in Equal and NutraSweet, is responsible for the most serious cases of poisoning, because the body actually digests it. Aspartame should be avoided by most women, but particularly in those with neuropsychiatric concerns. Recent studies in Europe show that aspartame use can result in an accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain, which can damage your central nervous system and immune system and cause genetic trauma. The FDA admits this is true, but claims the amount is low enough in most that it shouldn’t raise concern. I think any amount of formaldehyde in your brain is too much.Aspartame has had the most complaints of any food additive available to the public. It’s been linked with MS, lupus, fibromyalgia and other central nervous disorders. Possible side effects of aspartame include headaches, migraines, panic attacks, dizziness, irritability, nausea, intestinal discomfort, skin rash, and nervousness. Some researchers have linked aspartame with depression and manic episodes. It may also contribute to male infertility.  
Saccharin, the first widely available chemical sweetener, is hardly mentioned any more. Better-tasting NutraSweet took its place in almost every diet soda, but saccharin is still an ingredient in some prepared foods, gum, and over-the-counter medicines. Remember those carcinogen warnings on the side of products that contained saccharin? They no longer appear because industry testing showed that saccharin only caused bladder cancer in rats. Most researchers agree that in sufficient doses, saccharin is carcinogenic in humans. The question is, how do you know how much artificial sweeteners your individual body can tolerate? 
That being said, some practitioners think saccharin in moderation is the best choice if you must have an artificially sweetened beverage or food product. It’s been around a relatively long time and seems to cause fewer problems than aspartame. I don’t argue with this recommendation, but I encourage you to find out as much as you can about any chemical before you ingest it. 
Artificial sweeteners are body toxins. They are never a good idea for pregnant women, children or teenagers — despite the reduced sugar content — because of possible irreversible cell damage. If you decide it’s worth the risks, then go ahead, but pay attention to your body and your cravings. Once you start tracking your response to artificial sweeteners, it may surprise you.
Cooking without Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners 

When cooking and baking, you can often substitute one of the “GREAT” or "GOOD" choices from above in the place of regular, white table sugar. I often times substitute agave nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or dates, and since most recipes call for too much sugar, I decrease my measurement a little.

According to the August 2009 issue of Women’s Health magazine, these substitutions are sure to work:

Sugar Substitutes
If you are making
Instead of
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup date sugar (found in natural food stores)
Cake or Frosting
1/4 cup sugar
2-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Coffee Cake
1/8 cup sugar
2 tablespoons raw organic honey
Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses

A Little More About Stevia 

Stevia is a sweetener that is extracted from the Stevia plant and is an all-natural, no-chemical sweetener. Its sweetness is more concentrated than sugar, so you generally need to use less. Because Stevia is all-natural, it has several health benefits including that it is antimicrobial, it helps to balance blood sugar, it reduces cravings for sweets, and it aides in digestion. Stevia doesn’t have any calories. Stevia has no reading on the glycemic index, making it safe for diabetics.

UPDATE: The Spunky Coconut posted a great article about Stevia, including more about what it is and why some brands are better than others.


Sodium itself is not bad for us, it is an electrolyte that our and works with other nutrients in our body to help maintain blood volume and transmit nerve pulses, for example. We all know that too much sodium is not good for us, it has been linked to hypertension and high blood pressure. Sodium is naturally occurring in many foods, or is added to food or medications during preparation, cooking, or processing. Sodium can be hiding in many foods including soups, canned vegetables, and broths. However, any food with more than 48 mg of sodium should be considered a high sodium food. Other high sodium foods that should be avoided, not only because they are high in sodium but also because they are highly processed, are frozen dinners, potato chips, many cheeses, and processed tomato products (tomato sauce, tomato paste).

Regular table salt (Morton’s) is refined salt which has had all the minerals taken out of it using chemicals such as sulfuric acid, chlorine, and hydrochloric acid. When they remove the minerals, they add sugar, bicarbonate or soda, and other chemicals. When it is all said and done, it isn’t truly salt anymore. For generations people have been fooled into thinking they were using salt, when they were actually using a chemical cocktail disguised as salt. Use of this kind of salt can lead to blood pressure issues, excess iodine buildup in the body, and impaired thyroid function. When reading labels you should not only look for sodium in the ingredients, but also baking soda, baking powder, MSG, and disodium phosphate as these are all sources of sodium.

When using “table salt”, instead of using the processed version such as Morton’s, reach for a Celtic Sea Salt. Celtic Sea Salt is also has other minerals that are good for you.

Celtic Sea Salt

Celtic Sea Salt not only contains natural sodium, but also has other minerals including iodine. These minerals are healthy for our bodies and unlike Morton’s, Celtic Sea Salt does not throw our body out of balance. Celtic Sea Salt often comes clumpy and needs to be pinched or used in a salt grinder.

 Real, unprocessed salt, such as Celtic Sea Salt, is alkalizing to our body’s tissues and is loaded with trace minerals that keep our bodies in balance. Celtic sea sale contains traces of over 20 minerals, and the key here is that one mineral alone isn’t as effective as the work minerals can so when they work together. For instance, a proper calcium-phosphorus balance is necessary to the body’s ability to be resistant to disease, combat fatigue, keep mental faculties sharp, and prevent premature aging. Magnesium can only be processed and properly used by our bodies when calcium and phosphorus as in proper balance. Obtaining these minerals from whole food sources, as opposed to supplements, provides our body with the wide range of minerals it needs.

 However, it is important to mention, that even “healthy” salt needs to be used within guidelines for sodium intake and should not be overused.

High Sodium Foods to Avoid

Breads & Cereals
Breads, rolls, and crackers with salted tops

Many bottled salad dressings

Canned Meats
Chipped Beef
Corned Beef
Cured Meats
Kosher Meats
Smoked Meats

Cheese Foods
Cheese Spreads
Cottage Cheese
Cream Cheese
Processed Cheese
Ricotta Cheese

Canned Fish
Salted Fish
Smoked Fish

Desserts & Snacks
Salted Nuts
Salted Popcorn
Soda Pop

Soy Sauce
Baking Powder and Soda
BBQ Sauce
Celery Salt
Chili Sauce
Cooking Wine
Garlic Salt
Hot Sauce
Worchestershire Sauce
Meat Sauces
Meat Tenderizers
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Onion Salt
Sea Salt

Brine-cured Vegetables
Frozen Lima Beans
Frozen Peas
Pork & Beans
Canned Juice
Canned Vegetables

Canned, frozen, dried Soup

Favorite Recipe No.3
Grain Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites

These cookie bites do not contain any refined sugar, but you will not miss it. They are delicious and plenty sweet.

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